I LOVE the movie The Princess Bride (amazon.com link). There is a great scene where the villain, Vizzini, keeps saying that what he sees and hears is, “Inconceivable!” He uses this word it again and again, and what he is doing amounts to denying the obvious. Finally another (great) character tells him, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” And in case you have been living under a rock, and have somehow missed this iconic movie, here is a montage of the “Inconceivable!” remarks:
I am here to tell you that so many of us get one word wrong, just as Vizzini did.
Obedience: I do not think it means what you think it means.
As for me, I got it wrong for a long time. Obedience always felt like a noose around my neck. Obedience seemed like a necessary evil. A checklist. An impossibility. A giant weight of grief. A burden of guilt from God. It felt like I was allergic to obedience.
And, it seems to me that, we don’t see an abundance of blog posts, books, or sermons reminding us of the importance of obedience. Even writing this message, about this word that has burned a hole in my heart, I feel so self-conscious. Will this comes across as a huge stumbling block/legalism? What wounds do you bring to the reading of this post? Can you hear me clearly? Or does the noise of pain cancel out this message?
It would be easier to come across as loving, if I quoted this part of Romans 6:14: you are not under law, but under grace. But it may be that we have gotten grace a little backwards too? Let’s have a look.
What if God’s grace looks a little different than the image what we have become accustomed to?
- it is God’s grace to us to reveal his divine nature, which we see in his law.
- it is his grace to us that he is willing to show us how to live in this world in rich relationship with him and each other.
- it is his grace that holds up a mirror before us so that we can see the extent of our sinfulness…to see our need for a Savior.
Nancy Guthrie, The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy, p. 122.
As for me, I have just realized that my allergy to obedience was based on lies about God. I did not really get His character right. He is not a cosmic spoilsport or a kill-joy or a control junkie…these are people you might have met, but not God the Father. But He is also not a look-the-other-way, distracted, overly indulgent parent either. He is intentional and He is clear.
God’s exercise of grace is not that he relaxes his demand for full obedience to his law.
His grace is shown in opening our eyes to see our desperate need for [him].
And when we turn our gaze toward Him, we see…unfailing love, eternal sacrifice…open arms. How can we be unaffected by this extravagant devotion toward us? We will never see this kind of love from anyone else. This is His HESED. This love defines His character as much as His Holiness and Justice do. This kind of devotion catches your breath, brings tears, provokes your heart to love in return. Provokes your heart to…obedience, out of love.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). And the very next verse tells you how you can possibly do this: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17).
And what are His commandments? To love God first. To love others more than ourselves. And all of God’s law is kept in keeping those. (Matt 22:37-40). And when we can’t possibly love well because we don’t know how, or we feel like we have run out, we can go to the Source and get some more:
Doesn’t this TRUTH about obedience bring you joy:
Obedience is what love looks like.
It is your heart, full of love for God, lived out loud.
How about you? Ever been allergic to obedience?